Friday, November 26: The round robin matches at the ATP World Tour Finals just came to an end a couple hours ago, and I have a few thoughts to share on the gift and the curse of the format, the favorites, the future and more.
1) The Curse: Peter Bodo in his blog on Tennis.com has been harshly critical of the World Tour Finals, blaming everything from the branding of the tournament to the format. While I admire Bodo’s gift of gab, his writing is often too sensational for my taste. But in this case, I think he makes some valid points.
For one, I agree that some of the matches this week became meaningless by virtue of the format. In theory, the idea of having the best eight players in the world playing against each other sounds like a dream. But it doesn’t always play out that way. Murray’s match against Ferrer lost its luster soon as Murray grabbed control of the match midway through the first set.
If I weren’t such a sucker for wanting to see Roddick’s defensive game get toyed with, his match against Djokovic would have lost all charm for me after the half hour opening set had eliminated the American’s chances of advancing. I lost interest in it anyway, as did Roddick it seemed.
No other tournament in the world saps the motivation of a top player after the opening set of a match. Nevertheless, I still like this format. It’s not perfect, but it promises the fans a chance to see different exciting matchups they may have missed out on all year.
I was excited for the Roddick-Nadal match, and it didn’t disappoint. Players often like to say there is no easy draw in a major tournament, but that statement is never truer than when it is applied to the World Tour Finals. Sure, David Ferrer was pummeled into submission like an outgoing Pakistani rural girl, but he made his opponents work for their wins.
2) The Benefits: The World Tour Finals is the only tournament on the circuit which has fans counting sets and games in anticipation of an unpredictable finish. On Thursday, Ferrer needed to beat Murray in straights without losing more than seven games to qualify for the semis. The consequence was amazingly spectacular.
I’ve never seen Ferrer pound his forehand with such purpose as he did in the opening two games. And it worked. One would never imagine Ferrer overpowering Murray, but that’s exactly what was happening. And then Murray was forced to respond with his own artillery of punishing ground strokes.
Two of the more defensive players in the tournament were trading body blows from the baseline—Murray was even slicing with pace and an aggressive intent. And then Ferrer capitulated under the barrage of the Murray offensive and the mounting pressure with each lost point. Soon the match lost its intensity. But what a spectacle it was to watch these two surprise us – and probably themselves too! Perhaps each of them can use this match as a springboard to elevate their games to levels that they weren’t aware they could achieve.